PITTSBURGH – A former United States Marine claims his landlords violated the Fair Housing Act by evicting him for keeping a service dog in his apartment, intended to assist him with symptoms from his traumatic brain injury.
Shaun W. Moberg of Pittsburgh filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Jan. 23 versus Mitch Brourman, Anthony Viscon and TH3 Properties, also all of Pittsburgh.
According to the lawsuit, the defendants own and manage residential rental properties in and around Pittsburgh, including a multi-unit apartment complex. Moberg, who served in the Marines and completed tours of duty to the Middle East, was discharged from military service due to disability on Aug. 3, 2016, the suit says.
Moberg had suffered a traumatic brain injury during his service and experiences symptoms related to it, including post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety and depression, the suit says. These symptoms impair his ability to interact socially, communicate with other people and cause the plaintiff to have nightmares, the suit says.
“At the recommendation of his doctor, plaintiff acquired a dog named Saydi to begin training as his service dog. Saydi has been trained to perform and performs tasks that help plaintiff cope with the effects of his PTSD, severe anxiety, depression, and sleep,” the lawsuit states.
Moberg received certification paperwork designating Saydi as a service dog on Oct. 7 and then signed a lease to live in a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse managed by the defendants, one which would be made effective on Nov. 12 , the suit says. The lease was to run from Dec. 1 to July 31, 2020.
The lease read: “Animals. Lessee shall keep no domestic or other animals on or about the leased premises without prior written consent of the lessor”, and communicated the defendants’ prohibition of animals on the premises.
Moberg paid a total of $4,200 in preparation of moving into the townhouse – $1,400 for the security deposit, $1,400 for the first month of rent for December, and $1,400 for the last month of rent in July, the suit says.
“Plaintiff informed defendants of his service dog on Nov. 11, 2018 and informed him he would drop off Saydi’s certifications. Defendants informed plaintiff they will need more information about plaintiff’s dog, especially since “[the] lease contains a provision in it that prohibits animals from the premises,” the suit states.
“Plaintiff informed defendants Saydi is a pit bull, has appropriate paperwork, and wears an identification tag and vest at all times. Defendants called plaintiff the following day, Monday, Nov. 12, and told plaintiff that he spoke with his partner and they are not going to lease the apartment to plaintiff. Defendants told plaintiff they would not lease to him because of his service dog.”
Though Moberg explained Saydi was a certified service dog, not a pet, who helps him with his medical symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression, the defendants allegedly replied that it did not matter and they were not going to allow any pets on the premises, the suit says.
“Defendants returned the security deposit, as well as first and last month’s rent back to plaintiff. As a result of his interactions with defendants concerning the lease of the two-bedroom townhouse, plaintiff incurred increased stress, anxiety, and emotional distress and was required to find another place to live,” the suit explains.
Moberg believes he was willfully discriminated against by the defendants in violation of the Fair Housing Act and that they refused to make reasonable accommodations with respect to his service dog.
For said violations of the Fair Housing Act, the plaintiff is seeking a declaration that the discriminatory conduct as set forth, an award of monetary damages, actual and punitive, attorney’s fees, and a trial by jury for all causes of action and issues so triable.
The plaintiff is represented by Jennifer O. Price of the Law Office of Jennifer O. Price, in Murrysville.
The defendants do not yet have legal counsel, according to court records.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case 2:19-cv-00075
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org